Here at Bonallack and Bishop our experienced probate team understand that being an executor can be a demanding and time consuming job, and often comes at a very distressing time after the loss of a loved one.
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Our 13 Top Tips
Here are some practical tips to help ensure that your executors can deal with your estate as efficiently as possible – and why you need to regularly update your will.
1. Plan your funeral.If you have particular funeral wishes, make sure your executors are aware of these. You can leave a note of them with your Will. Being faced with having to arrange a funeral when you do not know what the person’s wishes were is very stressful. Worse still it can lead to unnecessary disagreements between loved ones.
2. Keep your Will in a safe place – most solicitors offer a free storage facility for Wills. We do – even if we didn’t draft the original will. In contrast, many unqualified will writers and most banks will charge you an annual fee each and every year for this kind of storage. Make sure your executors know where the original is.
3. Ensure your executors know the name and contact details of your solicitor – so they can get help and advice if they need it. It’s a good idea to leave contact details for your solicitor and accountant on a separate page kept with your will.
4. Keep a list of all your main assets -current investments, bank accounts, premium bonds, insurances, pensions and other allowances, shareholdings and other valuables. don’t forget to include details of any “free insurance”, which is sometimes provided with bank accounts. Don’t forget to include debts including credit card balances outstanding mortgages and other loan agreements. And that includes any crypto investments you have
Keep a copy of this list at home in a safe place, and ask your solicitor to put a copy with your Will. Update this periodically.
5. Details of your buildings and contents insurance. It is important your executors notify your insurance provider of what has happened and agree with them arrangements for visiting the property etc if it is empty. Make sure your executors know the code to your security alarm, if relevant.
6. Identify your beneficiaries and provide their contact details – don’t assume that your executor will automatically know all of those people you wish to remember in your will
7. Keep an up to date written list of all digital usernames and passwords, including those for social media accounts . In the interest of security this should be kept in a sealed envelope which we suggest should be kept with your original Will.
8. Keep all original documents safely together – including share certificates, passbooks, bank statements, insurance policy documents. Make sure they are together and in a secure place such as a safe and make sure that your executors know where this is and any access codes/the location of any keys.
9. Consider writing any life assurances or pension death benefits “in trust” – so they are paid to your beneficiaries direct rather than to your estate. This can result in inheritance tax savings and also provide useful cash for your beneficiaries at an early stage. Our private client team can provide you with more information about this.
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10. Register any title to land you own with the land registry – if this has not already been done – this may facilitate a subsequent transfer.
11. If you change your address, tell your solicitor and your executors. It sounds obvious but in the stress of the move, many people forget!
12. Keep a copy of your birth and death certificate with your will – and, if relevant, those of your spouse together with a copy of your marriage certificate. This is important as it helps your executors can claim all available inheritance tax allowances on your death.
13. Keep your will updated. This is extremely important. Don’t just make your will and forget about it, especially if your circumstances change. Even the government’s own gov.uk website recommends that “You should review your will every 5 years and after any major change in your life” and specifically mentions getting married, separated or divorced, having a child and moving house.
Being appointed as the executor of a UK will can be made all the more difficult if you do not give proper thought to the issues your executors will face.
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How we can help you
Obtaining probate following the death of a loved one can be complex as well as emotionally stressful.
While some people are quite happy to take on the role, many others find it too confusing, stressful or simply too time-consuming.
We understand that. That’s why our probate team provide as much or as little support as your executors needs – from administering the whole estate, to just being there for specialist advice when necessary.
And what’s more, we always provide free initial phone advice at the outset – so if you have just lost a loved one and don’t know where to start – give our team a call and put your mind at rest.